Assassin's Creed: Valhalla - Dawn of Ragnarok DLC - Review
Written by Sorrosyss, March 9th, 2022

Note: Non Spoiler Review, but spoiler analysis follows

Dawn of Ragnarök is the third major narrative expansion for Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and is a standalone purchase that is not part
of the original Season Pass. Primarily created by the Ubisoft Sofia studio, within this new narrative Eivor suffers from a new vision of Havi (Odin). The majority of the expansion therefore focuses on the story of Havi’s exploits in Svartalfheim, with players taking control of the Norse god as he looks to rescue his son Baldr from the tyrannical Surtr, leader of the realm of Muspelheim.

Svartalfheim is the realm of the dwarfs, though most are now oppressed and hiding from the Muspels that have seemingly invaded their land. As you would expect for a dwarven theme, the open world has a large variety of minerals and rocks, and it is quite a sight to see pure golden land masses sprouted upon the horizon in all directions. The map is certainly of a comparable size to Francia and Ireland from the last two expansions. There is the usual assortment of side activities, with collectibles and world events present throughout, offering the standard mix of comedy, drama and easter eggs in the mini side stories. There are a few more new additions to proceedings though, most notably the inclusion of a Valkyrie's arena, whereby you engage in themed battles based around the tales of Havi's past. There are also mythical memories, which recount the tale of the construction of several Isu items by the dwarves, along with the machinations of Loki behind them. Finally, as you would expect from the realm in question, there is a fair degree of rescuing dwarves involved as well across the map.

One item of the terrain you see everywhere are Hugr flowers. These are introduced as part of the new powers mechanic, which utilises Hugr as a resource and allows Havi to change into a raven to take flight, use fire and ice magic, teleport, and even utilise limited necromancy. As enjoyable as they are though, I wasn't too fond of the way that the powers are a single use once initiated. Thus, you end up using your entire bar of Hugr as you cannot cancel it and instead reserve some of your power resource back for later use. You evidently can only equip two of these powers at one time (with a third power being unlockable very late in the expansion), which was a strange design choice as I refused to give up the exceedingly helpful flight power, ultimately leaving my choices even more constrained. It results in power management becoming a bit of a tedious affair when you need to swap powers out, and you end up spending considerable time collecting many flowers to refresh your Hugr instead of actually using these exciting powers at a whim. It is a shame, as they certainly add more interesting mechanics to the gameplay when you do get to use them, such as a fun social stealth tool and instant teleportation to far off locations. It certainly feels reminiscent of the Tyranny of King Washington DLC from Assassin’s Creed 3.

Of course exploring Svartalfheim by the air is kind of fun, even if flight is just a modified version of Sýnin's mechanics. Having a short duration to the powers from the outset is kind of disappointing though, as the only way to upgrade your powers is essentially by performing raids on locations to obtain Silica, a valuable resource that is used by the dwarven blacksmiths, which you may recall previously appeared in Assassin’s Creed Origins as a resource to power the Isu temples. It is a little onerous way to gain upgrades honestly, and those who just focus on the main story will probably be a bit saddened at how you can pretty much finish the expansion with barely any powers being updated as a result.

Speaking of progression, I normally tend to 100% the map as I progress, but in the interests of writing this review prior to release I mostly attempted to follow the main story, only doing side activities that were en route between the quests. I was therefore a little surprised when I ended up finishing the main campaign in around 7-8 hours. As most will be aware, a lot of the media had reported that the expansion would be “35-40 hours” long. I suspect if you do all the side activities, you might well get near to that figure, but it really does depend on your playstyle and difficulty level. Certainly from our own team, both myself and Marco had cleared the entire map in roughly 20-25 hours. That all being said, there is a noticeable jump in the number of collectibles on the Svartalfheim map here, with a total of 148 collectibles (wealth and artifacts) versus The Siege of Paris expansion which only had 49 collectibles in totality by comparison. There can be no question that this evident collectibles bloating would ultimately contribute to the overall playtime, especially when most of them are wealth items. I believe we've all had the experience in the past of taking ten minutes to find the perfect angle to shoot a door lock through a window. (Mmm... an ingot. Thank you so much.) In short, if you are a player who tends to just rush through the main story content, you might well take issue with the initial steep price point (40 euros / dollars) of the expansion.

The choice to have the expansion centred on Havi is certainly a bold one as well. Most players will of course have finished the narrative of the main game, and are quite aware how he (canonically) is a character of questionable judgement and to a degree could certainly be viewed as a central villain of the plot. Here though he is a bit more honorable and respected through the realms, but I still found it hard to care too much about his plight given his actions towards Eivor. That plus of course we all have a much stronger emotional attachment to the viking as she was our central character through most of the game and its expansions.

Certainly, I know a lot of Assassin's Creed fans do not like the mythological filter that has been applied to the Isu times in recent games. I would certainly class myself in that fan pool as well, as I feel we are drifting a bit too far away from the Sci-Fi high technology focus that the Isu were originally designed around. That being said, it is quite obvious that Ubisoft's focus is trying to expand the fanbase, and having fantastical fire and ice powers in a cinematic trailer certainly had a sizeable number of players excited judging by the comments out there.

The hot topic question that really surrounds this expansion though is whether this is actually “Assassin's Creed”. That's a difficult one to answer, as everyone's interpretation of what they enjoy about the franchise can be different. Certainly I can tell you, there are no proto Assassins or Templars present here. There is is also no Modern Day content. But, there most certainly is Isu story present. How much of that is really relevant to the overall meta plot of the franchise is another question I cannot really answer. As you can appreciate, the expansion is set just prior to the concluding events of Havi's physical existence. Certainly there are some interesting easter eggs in place (more on those below), and some teases at possible directions the franchise might go, but experience often has shown us that these such teases are sadly often not followed upon.

All in all, if you simply want to run around the world of Valhalla once more, and enjoy the mythological aspects to the main game, you will certainly get a lot out of the expansion. As ever, it is well voice acted by most of the cast, with Magnus Bruun again putting in a majestic and believable performance as the Norse god. The main campaign for sure has some interesting boss battles, and if you elect to do all of the side content that the map offers there is certainly a fair amount here for you to ultimately go through.

Dawn of Ragnarök is available March 10th on all valid gaming platforms. Our sincere thanks to Ubisoft for the early access opportunity.

Final Thoughts & Analysis (WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW)

The expansion certainly gave us a few new talking points when it comes to the history of the Isu. The first, is that of Reda. Our young merchant friend has been a riddle for lore fans for some time, namely as to how he could have survived from the Origins game in pre-BC Egypt through to Valhalla's dark ages nearly a thousand years later. The most obvious answer was that he was an Isu, and that is essentially confirmed within Dawn of Ragnarök when he can be found living and trading amongst the dwarves of Svartalfheim. When pressed, he also reveals that he has a plan to survive Ragnarök (the Toba Catastrophe) and has been learning many secrets from none other than Loki himself, suggesting that our little friend may yet have further tricks up his sleeves for future appearances in the franchise.
By far the biggest revelation though is that of Light Elves now being confirmed as part of the wider narrative. You are probably most familiar with Elves (or Eldar) from other fantasy settings, perhaps most notably from the likes of The Lord of the Rings, whereby they are usually depicted as an ancient race often pre-dating that of mankind. Whilst we are still not entirely sure if they are simply a subset of the Isu akin to the status of Dwarves, we have previously theorised that there was an even older precursor race to the Isu present in Assassin's Creed, as there has been some previous evidence of their existence across the games. The linked article goes into greater detail, but the most prominent example is stated by the Isu themselves within the Ancient Mechanisms in Assassin’s Creed Origins:

“None could change what we discovered. The stories written into the walls of these rooms. By whom, we never knew.”

It is therefore very telling that the Elven sites within the expansion are referred to as “ancient”, even to an Isu as old as Havi, who is also seemingly unable to read the writing or glyphs of the “Children of Light”. We are told that they were ultimately wiped out from the mortal realms by Surtr's forces long ago, which also fits with the legends purported by the well recognised Prose Edda, whereby the Elves apparently fled to the safety of “heavenly realms” such as Andlang and Víđbláinn.

With the Elves apparently now existing on another spiritual plane or higher dimension (perhaps the Grey itself), we can also note that the elvish device that Havi encounters (the so called “Salakar” - Vessel of Souls) does not run in the same way as Isu technology does, and evidently appears to use “magic”. This of course fits with the fantasy theme of Elves themselves, and we traditionally see them depicted as being both magical and spiritual beings in other IPs. At their mention here, I was immediately reminded of the Celestial Suit armor set from Odyssey. Not only does the armor set mentions that it is “A remnant of the past who inspires fear and wonder in those worshiping the wrong gods”, but the very mention of the word celestial immediately conjures up imagery of heaven, the sky, and light. We cannot fail to notice that the armor set gives an appearance that is very similar to that of Celebrimbor, the secondary protagonist of the popular Shadow of Mordor games, who too was of course an Elf.

I would be remiss not to also mention the recent Elf armor set released for Valhalla as well. The marketing description states that it was modelled after the Ljósálfar, which was yet another term for the Light Elves. Finally, the mount is also a “Celestial unicorn”.

The Salakar is mentioned to have retained a little of Surtr's spirit, suggesting that whomever has touched the device still resides
inside to some degree, as also suggested by the brief flash of Baldr visible within it. We've seen this imprinting of consciousness on objects displayed previously in the franchise, such as Shao Jun evidently being tied to a Precursor Box in the Chronicles Russia game. At the conclusion of this expansion though, Havi reveals the location of the Salakar to none other than Hyrrokin, or as we more commonly refer to her – Juno. The timing of this is very interesting. Namely as we already know that she has the mead and Yggdrasil technology as depicted within the main Valhalla game, something she even states here. We know this in turn lead to her research within digital transcendence both for Aita and herself. Though we do not see this on screen, we are therefore lead to believe that Juno ultimately travelled to obtain the Salakar, mere days before the Ragnarök cataclysm that devastated the world.

This in turn opens up a whole other avenue of possibilities. If Juno touched the Salakar, or indeed managed to store it somewhere safely, her essence is theoretically saved somewhere out there. If someone could find a way to activate it, is this Ubisoft's potential “get out” policy to bring back its most famous villainess? It’s certainly an interesting possibility. There is of course one even more chilling realisation though. If scores of Elves had too once touched the device, there is every possibility that an even more ancient and vengeance filled precursor race could be unleashed upon the Earth. Of course the attraction of yet more hidden lost technology, or that of actual magic itself, may prove too alluring to the likes of Abstergo to miss. If the Salakar is still out there in the modern world, it could hold some very major consequences for the Assassin's Creed universe.

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